Joe Snelson

During the construction of the KVOF TV transmitter facility the FBN engineering staff made several trips to San Francisco. I thought I would share some of the experiences we had in our travels particularly since there is either humor or irony in every story. Bernie Marston, Steve Pair and myself made most of the trips up north. During the construction it was not unusual for us to drive either a pickup truck or box van loaded with equipment to be installed. Our route departing Glendale was to take I-5 north, through the “Grapevine” and past Bakersfield until we got to Los Banos. We would then go west on route 152 until we would link up to highway 101 at Gilroy and head north to San Francisco.

I always enjoyed the ride on highway 152, except with it only being two-lane highway back then, as it was a pretty and serene looking area. Being raised as a young boy in the Midwest the Pacheco Pass area with Pacheco Creek running beside much of 152 reminded me of parts in mid-Missouri. And I well remember Casa de Fruita which was near the western end where we we would join highway 101 and go north. I particularly remember following Bernie Marston through the Pacheco Pass one day when we were coming home.

While I don’t recall the exact date it was around 1976. Pastor Schoch had stepped down at Faith Center due to illness. Bernie and I drove the green Chevy pickup truck to San Francisco from LA and worked for several days. I will add that we used to keep a beige Chevy Nova parked in the long term lot at the San Francisco airport which we would use for the times when we would fly rather than drive. We had been asked to bring the Nova back to LA. So, on a Sunday afternoon Bernie and I headed back to LA with him driving the green pickup and me following in the Nova. I will mention again that 152 was a two lane road at that time which made passing slow traffic challenging

I should also mention the Chevy truck had a problem that Bernie describes like this. “You may remember that the truck had been stolen from the Chevy dealer's lot, recovered without engine and transmission and they replaced those items with passenger car assemblies. The speedometer gear in the transmission had not been changed to match the truck differential ratio. The truck speedometer only went to 80 mph.”

What this meant is the speedometer did not read how fast the truck was actually going.

Bernie further describes what happened: “I don't know what got into me on the Pacheco Pass. I just floored the accelerator and let it see how high it would go. The truck speedometer only went to 80 but I put the needle way past when it pinned. We were lucky. I did pass a lot of cars. I got mad at a lot of ‘Sunday drivers’ creeping along around Casa de Fruita. I really didn't expect you [Joe] to keep up with me, but you sure hung in there.” Bernie further adds, “There was a straightaway at least a mile long at Casa de Fruita that I took advantage of.”

The speedometer on the Nova was fairly accurate and I think I clocked Bernie at 90 miles per hour or more! I was surprised I was able to keep up with him considering I rarely drive at that high rate of speed. Plus, if you had ever driven that road in early years, you know it had some curves in it. I was just thankful that no California Highway Patrol was in the area. Needless to say we got back to LA in pretty good time and all in one piece.

The next adventure I will relate took place around the same time and is about two identical Krager Kustom Koach motor home RV’s. It is believed that these two RV’s were donated and were to go to Ray and Paul Schoch after Pastor Ray stepped down at Faith Center. One of the RV’s was parked in the south parking lot of Faith Center while the other was taken to San Francisco and parked in the parking lot of Glad Tidings church.

Not long after Pastor Ray Schoch stepped down somebody showed up at Faith Center to repossess one of the RV’s. I don’t know if he was aware that there were two RV’s but he was evidently only after one. He thought he had the right RV because it looked like what he was after but when he compared the Vehicle Identification Number to his records it didn’t match; he had the wrong RV! He left a disappointed and probably somewhat confused repossessor wondering where the vehicle was that he was after.

When Faith Center leadership learned of this a directive was given to Bernie to move both RV’s to a more secured location. It was decided to store the RV at Faith Center at the church camp, Sa-Ha-Le, at lake Big Bear. Bernie got the RV started and had Alan Durbin drive it to the camp and park it there. He then put in on blocks, removed the tires and stored them at the KHOF-TV transmitter site atop Sunset Ridge, which was not easily accessible. It ended up setting there for years long after the author and Bernie left FBN. We have no idea whatever happened to it. It would be interesting to know as we are sure title never passed from the original owner and, therefore, would make registration difficult if not impossible.

The next challenge was figuring out where to store the one in San Francisco. Bernie was instructed to drive it to the Sunset Mausoleum near Berkeley and stored there. So, that was our destination.  

The next challenge we faced was the RV had been setting so long that it wouldn’t start. Bernie remembered it like this. “You may remember that it was parked up against a chain link fence in the Glad Tidings Church parking lot and I had to get the battery out of the front of it to get it charged before we could start our adventure across the bridge.” He further elaborated by saying, “I think that the 1280 Webster St. address is still correct [for Glad Tidings Church]. I was only there that one time. My recollection is of a large empty parking lot with a chain-link fence on its perimeter and the RV nosed right up to it. We were very fortunate to be able to get to the battery. I was able to get it out and we took it somewhere locally to get it charged. I don't remember anyone else being around. We must have gotten the keys from Paul Schoch. We could just as easily have stolen it.”

Now, here was the real adventure for us. Bernie and I drove to the church where he got into the RV, got it started and we headed off to the mausoleum with Bernie leading the way and me following. Bernie and I both realized that he would be driving a vehicle that had out-of-state plates that had expired! We had to drive across the Oakland Bay bridge with a prayer we wouldn’t get stopped. Who knows what the cops would have discovered when they ran the plates through the vehicle ID system. I followed close behind, though not too close to get stopped myself for tailgating, in hopes to keep anyone from being behind Bernie and reading the plates. Thankfully, we made it across the bridge and to the mausoleum with no incident. We parked the RV at Sunset Mausoleum and have no idea what ever happened to it. Maybe it ended in the columbarium.

Once we got KVOF on the air we would make occasional trips to San Francisco to work on equipment as needed. We would usually take Pacific Southwest Airlines (PSA) from either the Hollywood-Burbank airport or LAX. I would always take my $400 Jensen tool case with me, which is seen at the right still in good condition. Those were that days where I could walk through security with tool kit in hand that had screwdrivers, wrenches, ice pick, knife etc. I would just open it and let the officers inspect. Of course, in San Francisco it was not at all unusual for the security officers to see these types of tools as there were a lot of electronic field engineers that would hand carry them on the plane to their destination. Of course, those days are long gone now.

Each trip to San Francisco seemed to always have some interesting quirk to it. To keep costs down Bernie and I would share a room at the Howard Johnson motor lodge in Redwood City. KHOF-FM had a trade arrangement for advertising and we would use the credits in exchange for a room. It seems to me the time was around midnight and we were asleep in our room when all of a sudden we awoke hearing a key being inserted into the door lock. The door started to open and then stopped when the security chain on the door reached its limit. Bernie yelled out, “Hey...we’re in here!” I think I recall hearing the guy, who was also a bit surprised, apologize, mumble something and then quickly shut the door.

And, after spending several days of long hours of hard work, we would typically reward ourselves by going to the Hungry Hunter which was close to the San Francisco airport. Back then they had some of the best prime rib least it tasted pretty good to us. It was a very appropriate way to close our week of work at KVOF and our adventures in travel.

© 2012 Joe Snelson

Click here to return to main FBN page